A Smarter Game

A Smarter Game

The unmistakable scent of autumn wafts in on a sharp breeze as the batter steps up to the plate. Running out of outs in a winner-take-all postseason game, the star slugger digs in with his team trailing and the bases loaded. It’s now or never. The jacket-clad throngs fall to an anxious hush as the pitcher rears back and lets go of a blistering fastball. The batter swings. It’s a line drive up the middle! You leap up out of your seat to cheer…

But it’s caught by the shortstop, ending the inning and the rally. He was standing at the exact spot where the ball was hit, on the opposite side of second base from where you’d normally find him—a calculated position based on the tendencies of the specific batter. He barely had to move to make the play.

Much maligned by traditionalists of the game, defensive shifts are the epitome of the scientific transformation of baseball that has been rapidly accelerating over the past few years. Though analytics have been at the forefront of the game since the dawn of the Moneyball era in the early 2000s, developments in recent years have enabled it to permeate the sport to an almost unfathomable degree.

Implemented in the 2015 Major League Baseball season, Statcast is an empiricist’s fantasy come to life. It tracks everything that happens on the field—every detail about every pitch, hit, and play. A sophisticated combination of a radar system called TrackMan and an optical system called TRACAB gives precise feedback on things like the velocity, break, and spin rate of pitches, the speed, angle, and distance of batted balls, and the positioning and movement of every player on the field.

Whereas managers and front offices once only had rudimentary statistics like batting average with which to make decisions, all 30 MLB teams now employ full-time analytics departments manned by PhD data scientists, each with its own proprietary system for breaking down the terabytes of raw data served up by Statcast each season—and turning it into reports that tell managers, among many other things, exactly where to position their shortstop for each batter.

Much like baseball, businesses are demanding data like never before, and the AV industry is uniquely positioned to provide it. In the October issue's features, we examine the state of the industry in fulfilling this demand. While we don’t have TRACAB data to analyze the efficiency of an employee’s route from the break room to a meeting, systems under the purview of the technology manager like room scheduling and AV control systems paint a detailed picture of how a facility and its technology are being used. Even better, new platforms are making it such that this utilization data is immediately presentable. Enterprises can harness this insight to save money on real estate and technology, and use it to attract better talent.

And unlike baseball, there’s nothing romantic about old, inefficient ways of doing business—no traditionalists standing in the way of a new, smarter game.

Matt Pruznick is the former editor of AV Technology, and senior editor for Systems Contractor News and Residential Systems. He is based in New York.